Saturday, December 9, 2017

Not You. (But Also a Little Bit You.)

The #MeToo reckoning of the last few weeks has turned out to be quite the unexpected rabbit hole for me. Somewhere between Louis C.K. and Al Franken, I had to pull over and think about whether I really wanted to pursue that particular rabbit any further down. Because I was pretty sure that at the bottom of it, all I’d find would be a blazing inferno of my own suppressed rage, ignited long ago by the twigs and sparks of little indignities swallowed over years upon years. How could I face such a fire without completely succumbing, becoming endlessly and unforgivingly one with the rage? I had IEPs to write, lessons to plan, emerging young men to guide with love and empathy away from the crimes of the fathers.

You know how rescuers will blindfold horses to lead them safely out of a barn fire so the horses don’t freak out and run away? That’s what I’ve been trying to do for myself. I didn’t want to see that fire. I just wanted to get myself safely outside.

But the fire, my friends, it is everywhere. Let’s go ahead and extend that metaphor and recall the relentlessly smoky skies that hung over my beloved Seattle for most of last summer. That’s realistically closer to where I’m at. I’ve only endured the low-level “something’s not quite right here” hazy effects of devastating fires raging elsewhere. Nothing traumatic, thankfully. Just low, slow, steady doses of toxic smoke and muted sunlight.

You know. Boring stuff, like when they stop being friends with you as soon as they know that sex is definitely not going to happen. When they devour your respect and admiration like a platter of holiday party appetizers, but will disappear for months at a time if you dare utter even the slightest criticism against them. When you can’t even go to the store or have an office job or walk across campus without being evaluated – are you worthy of their desire? (And if you’re not, then how dare you even show up being so unenjoyable to look at.) When we're heartily encouraged to see our disappointments through the filter of “He’s Just Not That Into You.”  

Or…when they send you texts admiring your writing, confess to a boyish crush and then, before you've even had a chance to smile and ponder over it, request nudes and declare “You think too much” when you say no. Turns out they admire an awful lot of writers besides you and have quite the collection of boyish crushes. PS – those other crushes are hotter/more talented/just overall better than you. PPS – would you spy on some of those crushes on social media for him since they’ve all blocked him?    

Boring, everyday stuff, really. Who hasn’t had some version of any of those things happen, like, this week? But I’ve been so afraid to say any of it out loud.  

For one thing, saying it out loud is a sure way to end meaningful friendships that I’ve been laboring so attentively to maintain. Not all of them, of course. Some of these guys (like the “send nudes” guy) can go jump in a lake. Others, though. In spite of their endless mountains of male angst bullshit, I have loved them all so much that I’ve agreed to be complicit and breezy, swallowing every last complaint so they don’t disappear in a puff of smoke. Finally giving voice to all this? They’re already gone. I’ll miss them.

Saying it out loud makes me vulnerable to the obvious criticism: WHY would I even bother with such friendships in the first place? Hey. Okay. You got me. I like friendships with men. I still occasionally get sweet crushes on men. I am attracted to men, and this is what being attracted to men is…so it’s kind of my fault for putting on the football helmet and getting out on the field in the first place and then “whining” that somebody pushed me in the mud.

Saying it out loud makes me vulnerable to this criticism, too: Hey Lady, maybe the problem is you, with all your intensity and negativity and wanting people to like/respect you as much as you like/respect them. Men have more important things to do than sit around talking to you. Put out or go home. And either way, shut up about it or else you’re “psycho.” (They love to call us psycho, don’t they?)

Saying it out loud makes me vulnerable to the chorus of female friends who stick up for these guys. There are more of them than not. You know it. I know it. They’ll post on social media all day long about Louis C.K., but wait until someone in their own friend group pulls something like that. Then see how much they’ve got your back.

So, yeah. Now that I’ve pissed off and alienated pretty much everybody, I’ll just say this: I loved our friendships. I’ve missed you when you’ve been unofficially absent from my life with the faint promise of someday coming back, and I’m going to miss you even more now that I’ve broken the unspoken agreements and conveyed my disappointment and need so publicly. 

So…if you’re so vain that you probably think this song is about you, please consider the following:

(1) I don’t want or need your apology. I wanted you to never do this stuff in the first place.

(2) I don’t need your explanations. But if you feel so compelled, you can go ahead and try to explain yourself anyway. I know I haven’t told the whole story here. I know I’ve only focused on the things that hurt my feelings and lasted over the years. Tell me all about it if you must. I’ll read it. I’ll listen. I’ll try to be fair.

(3) Think twice before posting outrage at the bad behavior of celebrities and politicians on social media as if you are somehow superior to these dudes. Maybe you didn’t do anything quite that bad. But you’re not so clean that you couldn’t use a good long look in the mirror. Have you ever made a woman doubt her own logic, reasoning, beauty, intelligence, or basic need for self-respect? Did you use the other women who admire and adore you as ammunition against her when she tried to argue? Have you worked as hard as she was working to maintain a friendship, or did you just breeze in and out as it suited you, entirely on your terms?  

You know, just…think twice about all that. And tread a little more lightly around that glass house. 
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